EU health agency warns of increase in jab-preventable disease

EU health agency warns of increase in jab-preventable disease

Although there has a been a dramatic decrease in mortality and arising from vaccine preventable diseases, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Andrea Ammon, today (22 April) warned that they continue to circulate, and are "inflicting suffering in those unprotected or especially vulnerable of all ages”.

The number of measles cases began to rise in 2023 across the European Union. Between March 2023 and the end of February 2024, at least 5770 measles cases and five deaths have been reported.

Due to its easy spread, one sick person can infect between 12 to 18 others, at least 95% of the population should be vaccinated with two doses to stop the transmission of measles

For pertussis, also known as whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory infection, there has also been a steep rise in cases since mid-2023. Preliminary data by ECDC shows a tenfold increase in 2023 and 2024 compared to 2022 and 2021.

In both cases, newborn babies and infants suffer the most severe consequences. These are the most vulnerable because they are too young to be vaccinated and should be protected by community immunity.

Ammon stressed the need for vaccination and explained that widespread immunisation not only shields those who are vaccinated but also helps those who cannot receive their dose because they are too young or have compromised immune systems.

ECDC attributes the rise in cases to several factors, including higher disease circulation after a decrease during the pandemic years combined with a drop in vaccination uptake.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in the European Region, more than 1.8 million infants missed their measles vaccinations between 2020 and 2022.

The agency said that the COVID-19 pandemic led to many children missing out on vaccinations, due to supply chain disruptions, resources being diverted to response efforts and lockdowns limiting immunisation services.

The WHO also warned that misinformation about the safety of vaccines has also led to a decline in global vaccination coverage.

Ammon added that vaccines remains crucial as the world faces new challenges such as new diseases and the resurgence of diseases previously thought under control.

“Unfortunately, currently we have stark reminders that we must not get complacent,” she said.